The Flexible Mindset: Key to the Design of the Consistent Run Programme

A flexible mindset allows you to make better training decisions that are based on your needs as an athlete rather than what is written on a piece of paper. This allows you to cope more effectively with set-backs or deviations from the plan without feeling as though you are failing. The flexible mindset allows you to accomplish what is required in pursuit of your goals by focusing more on what needs to be done on average (over time) rather than striving for perfection in a given week.

I was recently asked for more information on how I went about designing my run programmes. So here is the thought process behind my latest programme that will hopefully culminate in my first marathon.

Where to start designing a programme?

I always start by asking myself what will I need to do on average to have a chance of gaining the fitness I need for my target goal. The key words here are ‘average’ and ‘goal’. Average means I am thinking about the entire 10-weeks training rather than designing the perfect week. Goal means I am focusing on what needs to be done for that aim rather than the best possible training I am capable of. Why try to train like a 2:40 marathoner on the edge of injury if your goal is 2:59?

Bearing average fitness in mind, I want to get to my consistent moderate training load as soon as possible. That begins with an appreciation of current fitness and setting a goal which means the change in training load will not need to be too far in excess of current fitness.

The Perfect and Imperfect Weeks Training

I don’t design one training week. I design three. The perfect week, where work and life are uneventful. The imperfect week where work and life are more eventful. The week that follows the imperfect week.

Most runners set themselves up for a fall by only designing the perfect week. This leaves them with nowhere to go when work, life or their body throws a spanner in the works. It sets up the rigid mindset. The rigid mindset must have the perfect weeks training now and disregards the bigger picture. Not achieving the perfect week is catastrophic for the rigid mindset. This runner has two options (a) force the perfect weeks training into the imperfect week and risk injury or illness or (b) add catch-up training the following week and risk the same fate.

Designing three training weeks, allows you to detach from the perfect week and successfully complete the imperfect week. The week that follows the imperfect week allows you to accept what has gone before and adapt to the alteration, before returning to the perfect or imperfect week all over again. All of a sudden you are 4-weeks consistent and right on track toward the bigger picture of your goals.

Project Sub-3 Hours: The Perfect Week

Below is a summary of what a general build up week will look like if all things in work and life are uneventful. I will go through the logic for each day below and then discuss the imperfect week and the week that follows the imperfect week. Bear in mind two things. I have 3-years of running and strength conditioning under my belt. This programme (unlike the solely performance oriented 10-km blogs) is as much about enjoyment as performance so I am sacrificing certain elements of training in favour of fun. Notice the decisions that are made purely on my life circumstances rather than any specific training need, this is important too.


Yoga & Rehab: Headspace and single leg stability/ calf conditioning. Yoga unwinds my mind and body as one. This helps me recover and sleep better. The option of a shorter session or day off means I always have room to adapt within the week.

5-km Track Work: Fun/Pace variation/Musculoskeletal Health/Altered mechanics.

8-mile club run: Social/Fun/Miles in the bank.

8-miles hills or barefoot: Altered mechanics / conditioning / Variability

Park Run: Variation / Tempo running at 10-km pace / General fitness / It suits to do it before working with rugby on a Saturday.

15-20 miles: If I can deliver this most weeks, the running I do on the other 3 – 4 days won’t really matter provided I am consistent in actually running. I will probably use a strategy that alternates between 15 and 20 every other week. However, in line with a flexible mindset some weeks it might be 18-miles and other weeks it might involve pace variations. I will experiment with this as I go along. Unlike 10-km preparation, I am still a novice when it comes to understanding how my body will respond to marathon training so I am not going to be rigid about the Sunday run.

The Imperfect Week and the Week after the Imperfect Week

An example of the imperfect week would be going out late on a Saturday or travelling on a Sunday meaning you miss the long run. In this case, the above stays the same and Sunday moves to Saturday. But you can apply the same logic to other missed days. What is important is how you adapt to the week after the imperfect week. It has to be different because the previous week has been.


I will keep you posted. Remember, consistency not perfection is king when it comes to running !